I’m about to officially become the accidental Buddhist, to take refuge with the Shambhalians. I’ve known for some time now this is the path I want to take, but I’ve had to wait for the right time to come up. This is it.
It’s a little funny. My head is categorically opposed to being an “ist” of any kind. I don’t even like to say that I’m a writer. I say “I write.” But for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, it’s not enough in this case to say I meditate and work for peace and an end to suffering. I’m about to becoming a Buddhist. My head says GAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH. My heart says STFU.
This all started back when I was a kid, quite young. I grew up in a Christian household, but one that did not regularly attend church. Why? My mother and my father were from different protestant denominations, and neither denomination was happy about the union.
I did, however, attend every Vacation Bible School known to man, coming out of the experience rather confused about why we needed so many different versions of the same thing.
By the time I’d gotten to secondary school age, I had satisfied myself that all those denominations were, in fact, the same at their cores, although whatever dogmatic wallpaper the church leaders chose to put up made them seem different.
Before long I’d expanded my private comparative religious study beyond protestantism to Catholicism and its related subsets, Judaism in all its varieties, Islam, Hinduism, Confuciusism, various animist religions and a lot more. But not Buddhism. I cannot tell you why I skipped it.
Some years later, after a strictly atheist phase followed by one that was more agnostic, I fell in with the Wiccans. This began to make some sense to me, what with the idea of the sacredness of the earth, the natural cycles of everything, harming none and having what you do come back at you three-fold. But there are, in case you didn’t know, quite a number of strains of Wicca, the old religion, which again made my ears burn just a bit.
And still, the bottom line was not all that different from other religions. I just found the wallpaper a little more pleasing.
Out of that, I came across Kabbalah. Yes, the same Jewish mysticism that you may have heard is fancied by Madonna, but my interest predates hers by a couple of decades. Now this stuff really made some sense. It understood the mythic stories of religion to be mythological, to be allegorical, to be stories that explained the things the human mind could not begin to comprehend.
This was where I first understood the human predilection to either deify or demonize just about everything, a duality that holds our minds in a tightly wound vise and gives us only two views of a world that exists in no fewer than three dimensions.
If you have but two things from which to choose, you have no choice. You have a dilemma.
There was just one problem. Kabbalah stimulated my intellect, stirred me to think outside the box … but it didn’t touch my heart.
A quarter of a century later, that one world religion I had never explored touched my heart and my mind. But I found that I had a hard time calling it a religion. It’s more a way of life, a philosophy, one that celebrates the sacredness of all things and beings, that strives for peace and seeks to see where we are connected instead of where we are separate.
Buddhism, of course, has had its moments of violence and schism, and some — Myanmar, for example — still exist. But the core is very simple, and does not require obedience to a god or gods that are just simply ways of understanding the incomprehensible.
Used to be that old religions gave way to other religions, usually at the point of a sword, but also because the old religion had outgrown its usefulness. We’ve become such a fearful people, though, that we cling to our superstitions and swords in a very unhealthy way. To keep us safe from those fears, we’ve added layers upon layers of nothing, big huge and smelly piles of nothing that keep us from seeing what we fear, what we don’t understand — and also who we are.
So, this week, I become a refugee from this artificial life we’ve created, a stranger in a strange land. It doesn’t feel the least bit odd. I’ve felt out of place all my life, and now I’m joining a community of other misfits who think this old world needs all the help it can get and that our “leaders” don’t have a clue — and certainly not the nerve — to make the kind of fundamental changes to how we live that will save us.